With the widespread adoption of new technology that combines multifactor authentication (MFA) with a seamless user experience, it’s now time for organizations to strengthen their security posture by integrating mainframe into their seamless, user-centric authentication programs.

Some IT managers may shudder at the thought. After all, the mainframe typically holds the organization’s crown jewels. Mainframe security has traditionally been tightly controlled and limited to a small number of authorized users. But in today’s free-flowing environment, expanding access to sensitive corporate assets, applications, infrastructure and intelligence to a broader community of employees, partners and customers is critical to innovation and growth.

Privileged users and customers routinely access account data and conduct transactions that require mainframe access. After all, it’s still the system of record for an incredible amount of financial, travel, retail and governmental transactions. The challenge today is to provide convenience while assuring higher levels of security.

The explosion in the use of application programming interfaces (APIs) has also fueled programmatic access to mainframe data. For example, paying for a purchase from an e-commerce site through automatic funds transfer from a bank account likely involves a transaction with the bank’s mainframe. Businesses need to make this process simple to maximize the returns from self-service and online sales.

Looking Beyond Passwords for Mainframe Security

Password security alone isn’t enough. Years of warnings about the exploitability of passwords have failed to change the behavior of many users. In April, the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre reported findings from an analysis of over a half-billion compromised passwords in the HaveIBeenPwned database. The study revealed that the password 123456 was used 23 million times, followed by 123456789, with more than 7 million occurrences. Altogether, five passwords comprised about 8 percent of the database.

This, combined with people’s tendency to recycle passwords across multiple sites, makes single-factor authentication a nonstarter where critical data is involved. Nevertheless, businesses have been reluctant to put up new barriers for fear of reducing productivity and driving away customers. A survey conducted last year by Experian found that many business leaders are willing to accept the risk of higher fraud losses from the use of weak authentication protocols to avoid disrupting the user experience.

But they don’t need to make that trade-off. Use of multifactor authentication is growing thanks to technologies that are removing the inconvenience or expense that limited adoption in the past. With the arrival of robust and flexible MFA solutions for mainframe security, organizations can now share critical data more freely and satisfy the growing body regulations that requires enhanced access controls.

MFA combines two or more authentication factors — such as a password and PIN, a code delivered via text message, a physical token, and/or a fingerprint scan — to verify a user’s identify. Multifactor authentication has been shown to dramatically reduce the risk of breaches, yet many organizations are still reluctant to impose the additional overhead on customers.

Embrace a Smarter Approach to Multifactor Authentication

There is growing evidence that strong security now correlates positively with customer satisfaction. One recent study found that 70 percent of consumers feel secure purchasing items from a physical store, but only 56 percent fully trust online purchases. IBM’s “Future of Identity Study 2018” revealed growing consumer comfort levels with MFA, indicating that security is now at least as important as convenience.

MFA is more than a point product. It’s part of a trusted authentication journey, and companies that can confidently enable expanded access to mainframe data can participate more fully in the benefits of digital transformation. An advanced MFA solution for mainframe security extends tried-and-true tools such as Resource Access Control Facility (RACF) with advanced techniques such as risk-based authentication. Integration with access management tools and authentication-as-a-service platforms for cloud access make MFA an authentication-anywhere solution. Native support for factors such as multiprotocol hardware devices and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) further enhance this capability. The result is lower ownership cost, fewer help desk calls, improved integration with legacy apps and a better user experience overall.

More from Identity & Access

CISA, NSA Issue New IAM Best Practice Guidelines

4 min read - The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Security Agency (NSA) recently released a new 31-page document outlining best practices for identity and access management (IAM) administrators. As the industry increasingly moves towards cloud and hybrid computing environments, managing the complexities of digital identities can be challenging. Nonetheless, the importance of IAM cannot be overstated in today's world, where data security is more critical than ever. Meanwhile, IAM itself can be a source of vulnerability if not implemented…

4 min read

The Importance of Accessible and Inclusive Cybersecurity

4 min read - As the digital world continues to dominate our personal and work lives, it’s no surprise that cybersecurity has become critical for individuals and organizations. But society is racing toward “digital by default”, which can be a hardship for individuals unable to access digital services. People depend on these digital services for essential online services, including financial, housing, welfare, healthcare and educational services. Inclusive security ensures that such services are as widely accessible as possible and provides digital protections to users…

4 min read

What’s Going On With LastPass, and is it Safe to Use?

4 min read - When it comes to password managers, LastPass has been one of the most prominent players in the market. Since 2008, the company has focused on providing secure and convenient solutions to consumers and businesses. Or so it seemed. LastPass has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons, with multiple reports of data breaches resulting from failed security measures. To make matters worse, many have viewed LastPass's response to these incidents as less than adequate. The company seemed…

4 min read

Cybersecurity in the Next-Generation Space Age, Pt. 3: Securing the New Space

8 min read - View Part 1, Introduction to New Space, and Part 2, Cybersecurity Threats in New Space, in this series. As we see in the previous article of this series discussing the cybersecurity threats in the New Space, space technology is advancing at an unprecedented rate — with new technologies being launched into orbit at an increasingly rapid pace. The need to ensure the security and safety of these technologies has never been more pressing. So, let’s discover a range of measures…

8 min read